In my first post, I wrote about what we are supposed to do when God feels silent in our lives, and many of you may have thought that was a weird place to kick off a blog. Why start with something so hard to understand? Well, my story is full of times where I felt God was silent. I want to use this blog to encourage and pour into followers of Christ as much as possible. So, with that in mind, here is your introduction into who I am, and more importantly, who God has called me to be.
I grew up in a family that attended church. We were there every time the doors were open, but being there doesn’t mean much. My home life wasn’t what you would call “functional.’” When I was growing up, my dad traveled a lot for work and worked 2 jobs. He is one of the most driven and hardest working people I know. His job required him to travel a lot. I didn’t like that growing up, but it was for our good. He did what would provide for our family. He would travel every other week, so he was gone a lot. Suffice it to say, he and I weren’t as close as I would have liked. My mom did her best, and I was always close to her, but my dad being gone caused me to build a wall of resentment toward him around my teen years. By the time I was in high school, I was bitter, and I didn’t care to really have him around.
Right after I graduated high school, my family wasn’t close at all. I was always grateful that my parents were married, but honestly, it was more of a technicality than an loving marriage. My brother and I always were butting heads, and life just wasn’t pleasant. As I got older, I learned something about relationships because of this: just because people are close geographically doesn’t mean they’re connected. It was more like 4 random people that lived in a house together than a family. As a result, I felt very alone.
I guess this is the part where I should warn you about something: I am committed to trying to live a transparent life. I whole heartedly believe that everything that happens in our lives can be used to benefit someone else who may be struggling with the same issues. That’s kind of how the body of Christ works. I believe God does this so we know our pain has purpose, and I have experienced it. As a result, I have been accused of over sharing and not keeping things to myself that I should. I would like to state that everything I say here isn’t to bash anyone, but rather to try to encourage Jesus followers and build the body of Christ however I can.
As previously stated, I grew up going to church, but I was not a Christian. When I was 7, I said I accepted Christ to please my parents, yet there was no real relationship at all. When I was 18, I realized that I had been running from God for 11 years, and was tired of it. God sent Jesus to die for me so that I could have life (Titus 3:3-7), and if a God would do that, and chase me for 11 years, I figured that was a God worth following. So I did that. And I thought that would make everything better. All my problems would go away. Restoration of my parents relationship as well as my family unit coming back together. Well, this didn’t happen, and in fact, it seemed to just get worse.
A couple of months after I started following Jesus, God appeared to fall silent. We lost the home that my family had lived in for 14 years. The home that had been the stage for my upbringing (and much dysfunction) was being taken from us. After a month in a hotel, my family found an awesome place to rent in Elk Grove, and things actually started looking up too. My dad had gotten his life back on track! After being out of church for years, he started attending again. He and I even started to get along long enough to mend our relationship. Everything seemed to be on the right track, until God seemed to go silent again.
After being in this home for 5 months, my mom moved out. To be honest, this resulted in me feeling more alone than ever before. My parents said it was a temporary thing that would be beneficial, but I knew that she and my dad were going to get divorced. I didn’t get it. Why is it as soon as life seems to be settling down and God is showing up big time does this happen? The aftermath was rough. My mom was gone, my dad fell into depression and my brother turned to everything but God for comfort. I’ll be honest here: I was angry. I was angry with my mom for leaving me, my dad for letting it happen, my brother for running away and at God for leaving me. I remember thinking that this isn’t how life was supposed to be. I was a Christian now, so God was supposed to fix everything. This didn’t seem fair.
I drew myself back from others and wanted to be alone. I dropped out of school and spaced myself from people. There were many mornings I didn’t want to get out of bed. I remember praying and telling God that this isn’t how life is supposed to go. I have never doubted God like I did in this time. However, it’s always been my thing to push the pain down and pretend life is good, and so I did that. As a result, I harbored anger and resentment and would blow up on people out of nowhere. This caused me to be more unhappy than ever before and caused me to run away from God and my church. I was hurting, and I felt completely hopeless.
Then in steps Jesus.
I soon realized that I tcouldn’t do life alone. I needed the people God gave me to help me through the pain. People stepped up, stepped in and God used them in my life. I was sought out by my pastor and one of my mentors, Bob Ross (not the painter), and began what would turn out to be a year and a half anger counseling. I learned how to forgive, how to respond and how my greatest pain could also be used as God’s biggest victory. I immersed myself in the church and began to volunteer my time wherever I could. God showed me all over scripture that He was present and active in this time. He showed me that He shows up best when I am weak (2 Corinthians 12:1-10), He showed me that He has called me His own and would never leave me (Isaiah 43:1-3, Ephesians 1:3-10) and He showed me that if what I was seeing wasn’t good, it’s okay, because He isn’t done yet (James 1:16-17, Job 42:12).
How did I know God was active in the silence? He did some things that I didn’t even realize until later. First off, He used people to help me cope with the pain. I spent a ton of time on the phone, with other people and their families… Looking back, there are countless examples of people who were consistent and showed up when I needed them most. I don’t have time to name them all, but all I can say is I am blessed with an amazing church family and an amazing support system.
A great example of this support system would be the Crain family. Chris and April Crain, along with their 3 kids were one of the biggest pieces God used in these times of my life. During the divorce, and even before then, they would have me over to eat dinner and watch TV shows. Now, this may seem small, but for me, it was just the escape I needed. As time progressed, they kept stepping up and stepping in. I was at their house almost everyday, and at one point, they even let me live with them. They made their kids share a room so I would have a place to live for a year. Honestly, I had no idea that me going to their house to watch TV would eventually translate to me living with them, but I thank God that He set that plan into place.
Another example: If you don’t know, the worst time for any product of divorce is the holidays. Just living the reality that everything is different and the traditions you grew up with are gone really sucks. This is where my best friend Tyler Bollinger steps in. Tyler, along with his whole family, have allowed me to be a part of a new tradition. They have opened their home to me on Christmas, so that I can get my mind off of things. Again, this small act may not seem like much, but this has impacted my life more than they may ever know.
God also used this time to give me purpose. Through all of this mess, I felt God leading me to serve His church. I didn’t think that was possible because of the mess my life was at the time, but I finally understood the fact that there was purpose in it all. Maybe I am not where I want to be in church ministry yet, but I know God is using me where I am and I’m thankful for a God that looks past my past and chooses to use a broken instrument like me.
Now, I would love to tell you that this turn around was the end of my problems. I would love to say it all got better and that I have yet to struggle since. That’s not the case. Shortly after, I struggled with finances, we lost the rental house, I moved around a lot, I was nearly homeless twice, I dealt with broken relationships with both of my parents… The list could go on. There was a difference though: even though those times could have been misconstrued as God going silent and being absent, I didn’t think that. I knew He was at work the whole time, and that I wasn’t alone. Why? Because God doesn’t give up on people.
And that’s my story to this point. Sure I’ve had my share of trials to this point, but I’ve also, through Christ, experienced some amazing triumphs (get the blog title?). My story may be about brokenness, pain and loneliness, but it’s more about about redemption, freedom and hope. Let me reiterate the main point of the last post: never mistake God’s silence with God’s absence. God is there for you, and He wants to show up for you. Can you allow yourself to let go long enough for Him to do so? Trust the silence, because your triumph is coming.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”